Saturday, January 19, 2008

Grand Buildings and Grand Lodges

Many magnificent masonic monuments have fallen from the hands of the craft over the past 20 years or so and my question is how can we stop and or reverse this trend. The building that houses my lodge is a perfect example of a valuable architechural gem that was lost to the decline of the 80's and 90's. I have read countless stories of this building or that building being sold. The usual reason is the cost of maintenance and the lack of interest in the fraternity.That was the case with our temple. If you have read any of my posts in the past you would know that it was the building that helped to pique my interest (obsession) in Freemasonry.

It is an old brownstone building erected in 1892 and its original purpose was an auxiliary chapel for the local Episcopal church. Relatively soon after its completion interest and inclination returned to the original church across the river and the chapel was left unused. Our lodge had met in many different buildings around the city and it was the vision of one man who with much help of the brethren and much expense sought to permanently house our lodge in the chapel. This was finally achieved in 1912. Three years later during our 150th anniversary celebration former President and Brother Howard Taft addressed the assembled dignitaries in our temple building now embellished with beautiful stained glass windows depicting various symbols of our order. Over the years there were many improvements made and at its height our building housed various appendant bodies. Our stained glass windows were even featured in a movie produced by our grand lodge called "The Quiet Fraternity" you would think that such a treasure would be saved at all cost. Obviously the answer is no.
Now, before I go into this next tangent I want to state that I am in no way pointing my finger at anyone. I was not around when my lodge building was sold and have not even been told the whole story. All I have, is a patched together tale and the fact that we meet in a building we do not own anymore. I have some general questions that I would like to pose and these are for any masonic jurisdiction around the world but it will most likely apply to America.
Does anyone know of a Grand Lodge fund for the preservation of historic buildings/temples?
Has any Grand Lodge held onto a temple for a period until it could be saved by its own members or for future members? I ask this because once a lodge goes dark its property becomes that of its Grand Lodge and I want to know if it is true that they are usually immediately sold.
My local Prince Hall Lodge got to a point where the members decided to sell their building. When their Grand Lodge heard of this, the Grand Master sent out a summons to all the brethren of the lodge for a meeting where he implored them to get together and do what it would take to keep the building in their hands. Inspired by him they saved the building fro the auction block. I think this is a great story of a Grand Lodge coming to the rescue.
Does anyone belong to a lodge that is housed in a historic building?
If so, do you operate the building any differently than that of a more modern facility.
I ask this because I know of one lodge in New York that operates its building as a historical society for tax purposes and I would like some more insight into the process.
The reason I am asking all of these questions is because a growing number of my lodge Brothers and I have decided that we should make an effort to see if we could buy back our old building. I don't know if it is even possible because the current owners are settling in and the logistics of the whole thing might not even work, but we decided that we should try or move on to facilities that we could call home. If we were to regain ownership of our building it would be very helpful to us if we could operate as a museum or historical society so as the money that would normally go toward taxes could go toward restoration and maintenance.
That is the plan I have in my head and I don't know if it could work but if I could hear other stories, good and bad, perhaps I could provide some light for my brethren.
I have to admit that halfway through writing this post I wanted to delete it because of the futility of the whole matter and because I am probably grasping at straws but I have received much light from readers in the past so I continued on.
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